The writers’ blog-hop

artLast Monday, I posted an artists’ blog-hop post on this site, having been invited to answer four questions about my creative process. This week, writing is the theme of the blog-hop. I thought twice about doing both as I did not want to be repeating myself, but as my art and my writing go hand in hand, I felt that it was worth participating and sharing with you a little more about my writing.

This particular blog hop baton is being picked up somewhat belatedly as it was way back on the far side of the Summer holidays that Lynsey Whitehouse of ThinkDrawLive.com invited me to join in this post. Since then, Lynsey has launched the Brainy Girls Guide to Business which is now her focus. I will introduce my own nominations at the end of the article, but for now… it’s question time!

What am I working on?
I have just offered my first eBook up for sale on a Pay What You Want basis and I am now working on a couple of other books, both directly related to art. I am slowly finding new ways of sharing my writing and my art and have recently been invited to share my story on a number of blogs, so it is interesting to be writing for an audience outside of the safe haven of my own list and blog, unsure of who the audience is. On a personal note, I always write for myself. Getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper is an ongoing process.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?
I struggle to answer this question. In pondering my answer, I posted a question on Facebook and it was pointed out to me by a friend that we are put in genres because of our similarities. Each of us brings to our writing, or our art, our own very personal interpretation of the world based on the unique way in which we experience it.
Some artists resist sharing their methods and their inspiration as there is a desire to retain a sense of mystery and for people to interpret their works freely. I have no problem writing about my processes and learnings. I also embrace imperfection and feel it is more important to share something than to wait until you have something perfect to share.

Why do I write what I do?
Writing, like art, comes naturally to me. I have always used words as an outlet. Writing helps me process my thoughts and in sharing my experiences I find that new learnings, realisations and insights come through. Sharing my creative journey on my blog, both in words and images has enabled me to connect with a large circle of creative women worldwide. Like many mothers, I feel I lost myself for a while in the process of bringing children and focusing on their needs. Writing about my experiences and sharing my journey has been a powerful piece in the puzzle of finding myself again. Finding my voice as a writer and artist has allowed me to publicly engage in the process of reconnection, both to my creative soul and to others on a similar path. I hope that in writing what I do and sharing it, I will inspire others.

How does my writing process work?
There are two ways in which my writing process works. The first takes the form of a headspill. I usually write everything I am thinking and feeling out in one long monologue, often as a draft email, as though I was writing a letter to someone. If I am on the hop, I let spill into my notebook or phone. I find this process enormously cathartic and it allows me to release a great deal of mental clutter. Occasionally, a small amount of a headspill will make its way into a blog post, but usually this part of my writing process is used purely for cleansing purposes.

The second way in which my writing process works is as a long, slow period of writing, reflecting and adapting. The Gratitude Daily eBook is the culmination of 18 months work from the initial idea to the creation of a course, the running of that course, then adapting it in the light of feedback from participants and my own experience and finally transforming it into book format. I like to write and edit and then take a step back. I find that in stepping away from a writing project for a while, be it for a few hours (for a blog post) or a few days (a full article or bigger project) and looking at it through fresh eyes, I gain the distance and perspective necessary to create something of substance.

Having answered these questions myself, I am now passing the blog baton on to two good friends of mine…

SheelahFirst up is Sheelah Turner. Sheelah is an adventurer, explorer and story-teller. After departing the UK in late 2012, she and her husband spent 15 months camping their way across Africa, sharing their adventure on their blog www.kapp2cape-blog.net as they went. After the trip finished, their love of exploring new cultures and experiencing new countries has led them to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates. Sheelah is now launching a new blog Our Life … Lived! to continue sharing her musings and observations of the world around her.

eveEve Menezes Cunningham is a freelance psychology, health and wellbeing journalist. She writes articles and advice columns supporting people in helping themselves. Eve also runs the Feel Better Every Day Consultancy, offering holistic therapies for your mind, body, heart and soul.
You can find her blog at feelbettereveryday.wordpress.com


Over to you ladies…

The joy of the unexpected

Early hours and I after a while of distracting and avoiding I finally embarked on some creative activity, believing I had little time, not sure where to start, I rushed and produced something I am not particularly pleased with, but feel content in the knowledge that I spent creative time, enjoyed the dipping of the brush, the watery paint running down brown paper taped to the wall, finding its path around the line of the oil pastel earlier applied, the time to myself, music setting the tone, birdsong rising, sky lightening, silhouettes coming into focus. This is the best time of the day… the time I usually miss… the stillness and the quiet arrival of morning.

I have been reflecting on my journey over the past four weeks. Of how this little blog has developed and grown. Of how from nothing, I have created something, taught myself things I had been frightened of, and how in such a brief period, that seemed so long, I have gone from a sense of urgent activity to a calmer, more natural productivity, which is what I was originally aiming for, but lost for a while along the way. I realise too, that art was my aim, that I wanted to draw, paint, make, create, but that in becoming an artist I am finding my voice again and what has surprised me is that I often prefer to paint my pictures with words, rather than a brush. This is something I did as a teenager, freely, regularly, always carrying a notebook, doing the odd sketch here, a little drawing there, but writing, always writing. I had forgotten the importance words held for me, but am reminded now, as I find myself returning to my old ways… my patterns of napping early then waking and working into the early hours… patterns that worked well for me as a student, but may need some adjustment now, as a parent. But what is different is sharing… the words are out there, though rarely read at present, they are not tucked away in a little book in a pocket, a bag or a drawer, they are there for the world, if it wishes. There are some strange, vain and slightly uncomfortable feelings attached to this… to this sharing… and I am still not entirely comfortable with it, not yet at ease with opening my heart, making myself vulnerable, but there seems to be some need to do so… some desire to be understood. I know I am not the the only one who often feels alone, wishes to connect, to be heard, appreciated, validated.

I think also there is a desire to create as a way to understand myself, to problem solve from within, to open up a new conversation and find a fresh way forward. It is something I was resistant to at first. An open-ended beginning did not seem to be a clever way of achieving things, surely we need goals, aims, deadlines to do this. But to be open to play, to do things purely for pleasure, to give yourself permission to take off in whichever direction you choose, to explore, experiment, step off the path and down a dusty dirt track to who knows where is deeply liberating. And surprisingly, it has also been the way to finding a clearer path. Not judging, just going with the flow, playing every day, was key to this 30 Day Challenge, a programme devised by John Williams and Selina Barker to inspire creative individuals to put their passions at the forefront of their lives for one month and see where it leads. And the outcome is often not what one expects. Many of the 200 people embarking on this challenge found that around half way through the month, they wanted answers, wanted progress, a clear way forward, but then discovered that it is only when you let go of these expectations and just let things flow that the answers present themselves and something slowly becomes clear. In giving myself the freedom to express thoughts and ideas in this playful way, taking the pressure off and injecting the fun back in, I found my own way forward. My breakthrough came whilst enjoying a play day at home. Immersed in art, music on, I realised that I was so happy, doing what felt natural to me, painting, printing, making art, and that only one thing was missing… having someone there to share it with. So I decided to offer art workshops here at home. Within a three days of posting details of my first workshop on the web, it was full. That workshop will be held here tomorrow evening. I am both excited and nervous in equal measure. This, I believe is the perfect combination… the excitement being surely what one would wish to feel about any fun thing that they have chosen to do… and the nerves reminding me that this is something very important to me, something I care about, something I want it to go well.

As this 30 Day Challenge draws to a close and I near the end of this particular journey, another is beginning. I find it hard to explain the joy of watching people make things happen, change their lives, live their dreams, see them come alive, shine. It may sound pie in the sky, but for many of those who took this challenge, change is the reality, however big or small, it is always significant.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the other challengers last Wednesday when we gathered together at the Royal Festival Hall to exchange stories face to face. One man had ridden the underground for the first time since the London bombings to be there. This stuff is changing lives. One challenger is sharing his music with the world… a small step for some, but a big leap for one who has previously thrown everything he has created away. Some are telling their stories in blogs or books and others are finding new ways of keeping old traditions alive or distributing the knowledge of their elders. New websites, businesses, destinies and passions are emerging.

I do not know my next destination… and this time, I do not wish to know. I want to enjoy the journey one step at a time, take in all the details, meet new friends along the way… revel in the joy of the unexpected.

30 Day Challenge Meet-up at the Royal Festival Hall, May 23, 2012. Photograph: Barry Pitman